Nov 072013
 

two harbors and cactus Diver in kelp starfish and kelp California Spiny Lobster

Last weekend we went to Two Harbors on the isthmus of Catalina Island with the PowerScuba group. We had gorgeous weather and the diving was great. More photos can be found here: More photos of diving and hiking at Two Harbors, Catalina Island

It has been a number of years since I’ve been out, so I was surprised to learn that the dive boat which was dedicated for the site (the Garibaldi) had been dry-docked for a while. This means that any diving happening here is from boats coming from Long Beach/San Pedro area on the mainland, or coming up from Avalon area. This makes it much more difficult to organize dive trips with Two Harbors as a base as there is no local boat to help service divers. One never knows the whims of the CIC, who dictates what happens for much of the island.

Two Harbors always feels like a quiet rustic getaway, but that is partially because of the time of year that we show up – in late fall. By this time of year most of the moorings are empty, a far cry from the 4th of July when almost every harbor on the island is pushed into overflow and the island is packed with people. This time of year we are able to stay in the overflow temporary staff housing, which has a bit of a trailer park/work camp feel to it. The cabins are all close together and offer a meeting area for cooking and gathering, so it feels a bit like going back to camp as a grown up. This is one of my favorite places to visit, and my favorite time of year. Needless to say I really enjoyed the trip and meeting folks from PowerScuba. I can’t wait to go back!

Nov 042013
 

I’ve been using a diving backplate and harness from Deep Sea Supply for my scuba diving for a number of years now. The harness I use is somewhat Hogarthian, which in simple terms means it is a single piece of webbing and does not include any pockets or weight system integration. With this configuration the best method for using weights with a backplate is to use a weight belt, since it allows for separate ditching. However, weight belts and I don’t get along well unless I use suspenders, which then interferes with the harness and introduces entanglement scenarios I’d rather avoid.

I started by using a combination of bolt on weight plates from DSS (which work great) and small weight pockets on the belt webbing near the base of the backplate. This works well but it means that I have a lot of weight on me which is not quickly ditch-able (weights can be removed from the small pockets, but not quickly). In an effort to avoid this issue I looked at a number of different options for adding ditchable weights to a backplate setup.

I settled on the DiveRite 16LB QB Weight Pocket (#AC3216) as a ditchable weight system for my backplate setup:

Backplate with DiveRite 16LB QB Weight Pocket

The first complaint I had about the system for my usage is the webbing mount point when connected horizontally (the system supports both methods). In the horizontal scenario the webbing connection to the 2″ waist belt is quite loose and will side over standard weight keepers (as seen in the photo below).

16LB QB Weight Pocket

I had to purchase plastic weight keepers with extended D rings in order to keep the pockets in place and secured up against the backplate (as seen in photo below).

16LB QB Weight Pocket attached with belt D ring

The system loads easily and feels secure. The quick release pull works with an expected level of force, but I’ve found the extra velcro stabilizer strap requires a second expenditure of force to release, which could be confusing if a third party is doing the pulling in a rescue scenario.

DSS backplate with DiveRite 16LB QB Weight Pocket

The product is priced well (nothing in diving is cheap) and feels quite well made. The manufacture says each weight pocket is able to accommodate 8 lb of weight for a total of 16lb, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you could double that. I’m using single plastic coated weights in each pocket, and it handles that with only 50% of the weight capacity used. If you are looking for a ditch-able weight system for a backplate harness (or any 2″ webbing harness system) I recommend giving this product a look.

Aug 242009
 

Like many divers I used to store my dive gear in a large plastic bin.  The bins are cheap and keep any salt water out of the car trunk.  Eventually I dropped my bin the wrong way and cracked it one too many times.  I started searching for a better system.

Over on scubaboard a fair number of people were using large plastic tool chests or carts as portable dive lockers, with good results.  I headed over to Lowe’s and picked up a Stanley 24 Gallon Mobile Job Chest.  The chest is cheap ($50) and just large enough to fit all of my gear, including the drysuit & undergarment.  I’ve used the box for about 6 months and other than some surface rust on the latches, it seems to have held up well.  It is great for dragging gear over longer distances, like marinas or walking from the ferry to casino point in Avalon. Another benefit is the metal latches – I was able to use a padlock & cable to lock it to a bench while diving Casino Point.

The one thing the box didn’t help much with was my tank.  On a trip to Catalina I tried using a ratchet tie down to strap the tank to the back of the box.  It mostly worked, but felt a bit wobbly.  I was constantly worried the tank was going to slip out.

A form member posted some photos of an interesting modification to the tool box.  He cut holes in the top of the box and added cam bands for attaching the tanks.  This looked like a great idea and I wanted to try it out myself.  I bought some cam bands from Deep Sea Supply and borrowed tools (a dremel & saw) from Pete & Paul.

As you can see from the photos, we cut the cam band holes near the back of the box.  I have a steel 80 tank in the photo, but a steel 100 or AL80 would hang off the back even more.  This might seem a bit strange, but it was done for a good reason.  With the weight of the tank extended over the back, it balances the weight of box over the back wheel.  In fact, if the heavy items are loaded at the back of the box, pulling the whole package is quite easy.

Cutting the holes for the cam bands was more work than I was expecting, but the results are worth it. I hauled my gear and tank around Avalon a week ago, and walked a couple blocks back from the Shores to the car this weekend with little effort. The long term durability of the axle, lid and hinge remain to be seen, but there are no signs of stress or warping thus far. I’m hoping I get get a couple years of use out of it.

Update 2014: The dive box is still going strong. The latches and other bits of meta show some rust, but everything is holding together well!